You are in college to learn. Teachers give you tests and ask you to write papers and make presentations so that they can assess your learning. In order for us to understand your progress, the work you hand in must be your own. When a student hands in work done by someone else, he or she is plagiarizing. It is dishonest and can result in consequences ranging from an F on a quiz to suspension from Tompkins Cortland. To understand the College's policy, and your rights if you are accused of plagiarizing, read these statements:
What is plagiarism?
These are examples of plagiarism:
- Turning in a paper written by someone else as if you wrote it yourself. This applies whether you bought the paper from a “paper mill,” paid someone to write it for you, or got the paper for free from another student.
- Copying and pasting passages from various websites into a paper that you claim to have written.
- Using sections of another paper or a published article, book, or website without giving credit.
- Paraphrasing to avoid giving credit. Even if you change the words, you have to give credit for other people's ideas.
- Handing in a paper you wrote for another class and expecting to get credit twice. (If you want to do a more in-depth paper for two classes instead of a shorter one for each class, talk to your teachers ahead of time. Many teachers would welcome this arrangement.)
When is it not plagiarism?
You do not need to give credit for statements that are considered to be “general knowledge”. These are ideas that are generally accepted and that are found in a wide variety of sources. For example:
- The terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 changed the American psyche.
- The Civil War was the bloodiest in U.S. history.
- Elimination of illegal drug use has proven to be an elusive goal.
Intentional and unintentional plagiarism
Plagiarism can be unintentional. Sometimes a student hands in a paper with four or five websites listed as sources, and long passages copied verbatim from those sites. If the plagiarism was intentional, the student wouldn't have told the teacher where the information was copied from. So we assume it was unintentional. The student did not understand the assignment. You probably won't get kicked out of school for that. But you won't get credit for the paper, either, because you didn't actually write it. If you're going to have to start from scratch and do the assignment over, you might as well do it right the first time.
How to avoid plagiarism
Start your work early: Writing is a process. It takes time. You need to do some writing, maybe some reading, some thinking, ...then put it away for a day or two and come back to it with fresh eyes. For a good essay, a student might go through this process ten times. You can't do that if you're starting a day or two before the paper is due. Putting yourself under that kind of stress creates the temptation to find some "stuff" on the Internet, paste it together and call it a paper. You can't learn much that way, and it won't earn you a good grade. In fact, it's likely to result in a "0" if the teacher determines you didn't write the paper. Don't forget... your teachers know how to Google, too.
Talk to your teacher: Keep your teacher up-to-date on your progress. Check in. Make sure you're on the right track. If the assignment is given in stages with a little bit due every week or two - do the stages as suggested. This structure is for your benefit. If you follow the assigned timeline you'll have your teacher's feedback each step of the way. You might even get a do-over on a part you didn't understand at first. If you need extra help with a certain concept, visit your teacher during office hours. However you do it, try to stay away from that last-minute crunch that creates the temptation to cheat.
Take advantage of the help available: The librarians and tutors working in the Writing & Research Center can help you every step of the way. We can help you come up with an original idea that is interesting to you; help you find outside sources to learn more about the topic; help you evaluate sources for credibility; help you use sources to identify good focus points for the structure of your paper; and help you with grammar, paragraphs, and transitions. We can also help you figure out when you need to give credit for an idea—and teach you how to do it. Don't wait until your paper is done to come to see us. Come at the beginning when we can help you the most.